7/04/08

Yorkshire clerk in daring First World War sea raid on Zeebrugge

AN author has discovered a West Yorkshire connection to a daring raid during the First World War. That according to an article in today's Yorkshire Post. In "The Zeebrugge Raid 1918", writer Paul Kendall tells the story of the Royal Navy's attempt to block the port at Zeebrugge by sinking three ships at the entrance, thus preventing the Germans from using Bruges as a submarine base. Churchill called it "the finest feat of arms in the Great War, and certainly an episode unsurpassed in the history of the Royal Navy".Mr Kendall, who describes it as a "suicide mission", has discovered that a solicitor's clerk from Leeds called George Calverley was among those who took part.Calverley, born in Armley on July 20, 1898, had tried to enlist in the Royal Field Artillery in September 1914 at the outbreak of war but was turned away because at 16 he was too young. In March 1915 when returning to his office in Leeds he passed the Royal Marine recruiting office. Although still under the age limit and too short he stood on tiptoes – and was accepted. He was later assigned to the 4th Battalion Royal Marines Light Infantry and started training for the raid. He was aboard HMS Iris, a former Mersey ferry boat, whose objective was to assault a jetty and create a diversion to allow the three ships to pass.As HMS Iris was withdrawing, a German shell struck the deck, where 56 Marines were waiting. It killed 49 men and blew Lance Corporal Calverley five yards into the air, but he survived.Mr Kendall praises the men's courage "in trying to accomplish a difficult objective, in the dark of night, challenged by the tide and the German gun batteries".

The book, priced £25, is available from The History Press.